How to buy property overseas


Ever dreamt of owning a chateau in the south of France or a villa in Bali? In an increasingly global world, it’s easier than ever to own a slice of somewhere else.

Nerida Conisbee, REA Group Chief Economist, says a growing number of Aussies are looking overseas for a property fix.

“Absolutely the global property market, both residential and commercial, is becoming more accessible and many Aussies are open to the concept of buying residential property offshore,” she says.

Conisbee says buyers fall into four categories; those looking for a holiday home, those wanting an investment, migrants to Australia who want a house “back home” and people looking for accommodation for a child studying abroad.

“Recent research from shows 12% of people are actively looking to buy overseas and a further 23% would consider it. The numbers are certainly trending upwards and the average amount Australians are looking to spend is $500,000, so it’s not just high net-worth individuals,” she says. 

The launch of’s global property network, – which includes more than three million listings from 56 countries in Europe, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific – has made searching even easier, Conisbee says. “Australians are drawn to ‘familiar’ English-speaking countries; 34% of Australians looking to buy overseas want to buy in the US, 32% are looking in New Zealand and 30% are interested in the UK,” Conisbee says.

But daydreaming about a sipping coffee in your funky little apartment in Berlin and actually buying overseas are different things. Conisbee shares her tips and tricks.

Location, location, location

“The first step is finding out if you can buy where you want to,” Conisbee says.

“Most European countries are OK, with few restrictions on foreign purchases. But in say, Iceland and Liechtenstein, only residents are allowed to buy real estate. Lots of Aussies dream about owning property in Bali for example, because it’s such a popular holiday spot and while there are significant restrictions, it is possible to navigate them,” she says.

Online research is a good place to start, Conisbee says. 

Tax considerations

The tax implications – at home and in the country of purchase – are another key consideration, Conisbee says.

“Countries with relatively relaxed foreign investment rules may have significant taxes on offshore buyers, which can make a relatively inexpensive property far more expensive,” she says.

Conisbee recommends research and using an expert in the country buyers are looking at. “Understanding taxation in Australia is complex and difficult, let alone in a foreign country,” she says.

Finance options

Accessing finance is key in any property purchase.

“Can you borrow money, either in Australia or in the country you want to buy in?” Conisbee asks.

“For many Australian banks, buying offshore would be considered more risky than buying in Australia, so it’s important to do research about finance options.”


The lay of the land

Buyers need to understand the peculiarities of property purchases and home ownership in another country, Conisbee says.

“Is it leasehold? Freehold? Are you buying the land? Or the actual house? Is it by auction, private treaty or tender? What expenses are you expected to pay ongoing? Are there restrictions on renting it out? Can you use a property manager? How much does that cost? There are many questions to be answered,” she says.

Buyers need to understand market and economic forces, too. For example, after the mortgage crisis of 2008, the US became a popular place for Australians to buy property.

“Back then, there were some absolute bargains, but the US has gone up a lot since then, as the economy has turned around,” Conisbee says. 

Buyers need to be realistic about any potential returns. “In Australia, we’ve seen 25 years of growth and people assume that happens everywhere; it doesn’t.”

Get a feel for the place

Conisbee recommends visiting the property to get a complete feel for the place. “A lot of people like property because it is an investment you can see and touch, and keep an eye on. That’s obviously a bit trickier if it’s overseas,” she says.

“Personally, I would never buy a property without seeing it, so I would certainly visit in person. It will help you understand the neighbourhood, things like how walkable it is, if there is good cafes nearby,” she says.

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